A successful Main Street program involves groups from throughout the community. Different groups may have different interests in the Main Street district, but they all share the common goal of creating a healthy commercial district. By inviting a wide range of constituents to participate in the revitalization process, a Main Street program helps each group realize the existence of this common goal—and that cooperation is essential for success. Furthermore, by identifying the strengths of each group, the Main Street program can direct groups to focus on the areas where they will make the greatest contribution. Groups typically represented and involved in successful local Main Street programs include:
Retail & Service Sector Business Owners
Retail and service sector activity is an important part of the Main Street district’s economic base, so business owners have a very real interest in the success of the district revitalization program. Retailers are often most interested in district promotions and are often the most valuable contributors to these activities. This doesn’t mean district business owners must be limited to promotional activities—their involvement in other Main Street district activities can also be beneficial.
Since they literally own the Main Street district, property owners have a direct interest in the success of the Main Street program and often become active participants in the revitalization process. Absentee owners may show little or no interest in the program; however, they should still be kept informed about revitalization activities. As your Main Street program develops greater competency in directing the district’s economic growth, continue to invite all property owners to take part in its projects.
Chamber of Commerce
The chamber of commerce is an important player in most Main Street programs because of its interest in the community’s commercial development. The chamber can help the Main Street program by providing liaison with local and regional economic development agencies, helping businesses expand, recruiting new businesses and sharing information resources. However, keep in mind that the chamber must remain concerned with community-wide development. Focusing too much on the Main Street district can contradict its direct mission.
Local financial institutions benefit from a revitalized Main Street district in many ways, from increased demand for new business loans to the ability to attract new industry to the community. Banks and savings and loans can support the Main Street program by helping package loans, taking part in interest buy-down and other financial incentive programs, providing leadership and seeking innovative ways to stimulate district economic development. Many financial institutions also find that participation in the local Main Street program helps satisfy their directives under the Community Reinvestment Act.
In many ways, consumers benefit the most from a revitalized Main Street district. Many local consumers, even those who have not previously belonged to any community organizations, will be interested in participating in the revitalization effort and helping make Main Street—and the community—a more vibrant place to be.
City, County and State Government
Without the support and involvement of local government, a Main Street program will struggle to achieve long-lasting success. Local government can help provide the financial and information resources, technical skills, and leadership to the revitalization effort. Because local government plays a major role in directing the community’s economic growth, it must be an active participant in restructuring the Main Street district’s economic base and developing innovative solutions to district issues. It is also important to engage the government at the state level—important financial resources are available through the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
The media are usually major proponents of downtown revitalization efforts. Revitalization programs mean creating new jobs, generating new investments and bringing more money into the community—all newsworthy activities. In addition to publicizing the successes of the local Main Street program, the media can provide useful information about local market characteristics to help the program find better ways to meet consumer needs.
Regional Planning Commissions and Councils of Government
Planning commissions and government councils can provide the local Main Street program with market data and other technical information about the Main Street district’s market area. They can also help the program identify resources and establish relationships with regional, state, and national economic development agencies.
Schools and Universities
Schools can contribute to successful Main Street revitalization in several ways. Young people form a segment of the community that may not be heavily involved in the Main Street district, but that may introduce fresh and unique perspectives. An invitation to participate in the Main Street program can help students become positive contributors to the quality of life in the community. Also, students are be excited by opportunities to use their skills in a “real world” environment and can help the Main Street program implement its programs and activities.
Historic Societies and Historic Preservation Organizations
Historical groups can contribute expertise in local history, preservation technology, and related fields to the Main Street program.
Don’t limit your circle of partners to only the groups listed above! Be active and creative in searching for potential opportunities for cooperation. Other ideas for partnerships include:
- Urban renewal boards
- Arts councils and commissions
- Cultural and heritage councils
- Civic clubs
- Garden clubs
- Public utilities
- Bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups
- Tree city committee
- Community web hosts and providers